Ticats face Alouettes with 2nd place in mind
Hamilton win would lock up 2nd spot in East
Veteran Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Henry Burris calls it an opportunity to bounce back from an embarrassing loss with a home playoff game on the line.
A Hamilton win over the Montreal Alouettes Saturday will give the Tiger-Cats second place in the CFL East Division and ensure the semifinal will be played at the University of Guelph's Alumni Stadium. Hamilton will also be looking for a little payback after getting thumped 36-5 in Montreal last week.
"We've fought all year for this opportunity to be able to host a home playoff game," Burris said. "We got our butt embarrassed last week on Sunday and this is the time where [we've] got to rise to the occasion and we've truly got to go out and play and be the team that people know we can be."
Hamilton's record is 8-8 and Montreal is 7-9 heading into the 1 p.m. matchup in Guelph. Should the Als win, they move into a tie for second spot, but hold the tiebreaker over the Ticats.
Who hosts the East Division semifinal would then come down to the final game of the regular season, with Montreal in Toronto and Hamilton at Winnipeg. Hamilton hasn't hosted a playoff game since 2010 and they haven't finished ahead of Montreal in the standings since 2001.
The Ticats' loss in Montreal was their second-worst performance of the year (they lost 37-0 to Saskatchewan back in July). Als rookie quarterback Troy Smith, who was making his starting debut, showed up Burris by throwing three touchdown passes with no interceptions, completing 17 of 35 pass attempts for 247 yards.
Smith gave himself a "C-plus" for his performance last week, and said he will bring some different offensive looks to Saturday's game.
"We've got some new wrinkles in there so that Hamilton can't just key in on the things that we did last game," Smith said after the Alouettes practised in Montreal on Thursday. "You've got to give the other team credit, and when they're this good you;ve got to try some different things."
Burris, meanwhile, had a horrible outing, completing 11 of 23 pass attempts for 106 yards, zero touchdown passes and one interception.
He credited Montreal's pressure defence for his low output.
"They've done a great job as far as getting pressure," he said. "They really out-physicalled us in the first two games. We were able to make enough plays in the first one to get the win (28-26 in Moncton) and of course the one on Sunday they came out and they dominated us."
Montreal's front line recorded five sacks in the win.
"We've had some really strong defensive games, then not finished strong," Alouettes head coach and general manager Jim Popp said Thursday. "Last week was [strong] the entire game and the scoreboard reflected that. It's great for them to have a game like that.""
Head coach Kent Austin said the players know winning the game is important, but he wants to make sure their focus is on the things that will help them actually win the game.
"Are we aware of the backdrop to this game and its importance? The answer is yes," said Austin. "Do we highlight it and bring a tremendous focus to it and use that as an addition ancillary motivational tool for our players? No. We approach every game the same way."
That means it also doesn't matter to Austin that the weather forecast calls for rain and wind. Nor that they will have found themselves playing Montreal three times in four weeks (including the semi).
"What I'm worried about is: are you going to get the call that's sent in, know your assignments, get aligned properly and play your rear end off to compete on every play until the whistle and to play to win and to control your emotions as needed and to play at a very high level . . . That's all that matters," he said. "We'll let the record take care of itself."